The Double H Ranch is saddened to share the news that Gwen Allard, a pioneer in adaptive skiing and a founder of our Adaptive Winter Sports Program, passed away this week at the age of 86. Gwen came to Double H at the request of our co-founder Charles R. Wood to start a winter program over 25 years ago. She was active as a PSIA/AASI trainer, educator, and key advisor to our program up until 2020.
Gwen often told the story of being called to Double H one summer by Charley Wood. She was persuaded – and always said with a smile that she wasn’t sure how – to turn a single trail down the hill, which had an old ski lift, island of trees, and boulders in the middle, into an adaptive ski program for children with a serious illness. She recalled driving away and pulling over on the side of the road and asking herself, “What have I done?”
But, in typical Gwen fashion, she forged ahead. She recruited the entire ski industry for donations and volunteers to create a premiere adaptive program for children living with serious illnesses. Over 25 years later, the Adaptive Winter Sports Program at Double H continues to be held in high regard among our peers in the East.
The thousands of children who have learned to ski and snowboard on our slopes experience things they normally would never have dreamed possible. The ability to be mobile in the winter, to determine and control the speed and direction of their body, to conquer fears and overcome limits set upon them by their illness, their doctors, and society. But most of all to create the belief that there is no such thing as “no.” There is only “We will find a way.”
Equally inspiring is the thousands of volunteers who heeded Gwen’s call and followed her into the world of adaptive skiing and snowboarding. She was instrumental in developing programs for training and certifying adaptive instructors. Her career-long efforts to make skiing accessible to people with physical disabilities was honored earlier this year when she was inducted into the U.S. National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. She saw the best of all of us, didn’t take no for an answer, and cheered loudly and exuberantly for each success.
Gwen always saw something magical at Double H – our slopes, our campers, our volunteers, and our community. We will forever be grateful for her leadership in creating an inclusive and equitable program for all. The love and laughter that is found here is a true testament to the “Mother of Adaptive Skiing.” We will continue to honor Gwen’s legacy and remember her fondly as we witness our campers experience the joy of sliding on the snow down Gwen’s Fun Run for generations to come.